What are the best mid-century flooring choices?

31 min read The best mid-century flooring for your house? It really does depend – on your taste, the size of your pets, the age of your kids and even your tendency to be a little bit of a butterfingers.

best mid-century flooring options include original oak hardwood.

What is the best mid-century flooring for your house? I get this question ALL the time and I have a lot of opinions about it. But before I tell you about what I like and what I’d choose … we need to focus on you.

Short version: it depends on what you want

That’s because my answer to you, to my clients, to my students and to everybody who asks me this is …

It depends.

Now, when I answer this way, I’m not hedging or hesitating. 

I do have opinions about and experience with many types of flooring in all sorts of applications. And strong personal preferences of my own!

But when people ask “What’s the best mid-century flooring?”, what they actually mean to ask is, “What’s the best mid-century flooring for me and for my house?” And that’s where it really does depend. 

The best mid-century flooring depends on your taste, the size of your pets, the age of your kids (if any) your knee health and even your tendency to be a little bit of a butterfingers.

“How often are you or others going to drop plates on the kitchen floor?” is a real and important question for you to answer.

The short version of my answer is that there are some great options that provide for a beautiful, almost indestructible floor, that’s easy to maintain and will last forever.

And one (or more) of those is the best flooring for your mid-century house. 

First, though …

LVP is NOT the best mid-century flooring

One that is surely NOT the best options for anyone – but especially not for a mid-century house update – is LVP.

Luxury Vinyl Plank … sucks.

It’s bad for the environment and for humans and it’s only a forever material in the worst way. It and it’s byproducts are persistent in the environment (and possibly our bodies), but as flooring it’s not anywhere near as durable as manufacturers claim. Vinyl is like the asbestos of our day – it’s a never going away thing that hurts us.  

As a designer I have a number of bones to pick with this material:

  • It looks fake and cheap.
  • It’s made of harmful synthetic materials. A lot of vinyl is produced in the area in Louisiana where a lot of vinyl is produced known as  Cancer Alley. Ninety one percent (91%) of residents report health problems linked to chemical exposure.  People who work in hospitals, yes hospitals, with vinyl flooring that is harshly cleaned with chemicals specifically for it are reporting shockingly high rates of occupational asthma.  
  • The SURFACE of lvp is waterproof and durable … but just like wrapping your house in vinyl it creates an impervious layer that traps any moisture that might get through. Water that leaks through the gaps will soak into the under layers, get into the subfloor and not evaporate back out.  It often seals in moisture and creates problems. 
  • Plus heat can damage it. Too much sun exposure can cause it to swell warp and buckle at the seams – which by the way just makes it less water proof.  
  • Finally, the finish is just skin deep.  If you gouge or scratch it … there’s nothing to refinish or repair. 

Ew. Seriously. No.  

So what’s the best mid-century flooring choice?

Here are a slew of better flooring options for your mid-century home. And one of these is likely “The Best Flooring” for your remodel.  As I said above, the actual “best” one for you depends on your lifestyle and preferences.

Hardwood or Engineered Wood always work

Wood, in general, is foot friendly and warm. And it’s pretty durable (or at least repairable).

2 1/4 inch wide red or white oak harwood is the quintessential Midwestern mid-century flooring. And, if your house was built in 1954 or earlier you may already have the classic 2 1/4 inch oak planks hiding under carpet. (Listen for the full story!)

You can still get a pretty close cousin of this material today and may be able to match any existing flooring. So that’s always a great choice.

As a runner up … you can go with an engineered wood plank product. It will at least fit the aesthetic of your home, but won’t match the quality of real wood.  If you are tempted to do an engineered plank floating floor then, I recommend cork over wood.

Cork is a GREAT choice

Sheets of cork are another favorite of the MCM era! It’s naturally anti-microbial and very hard wearing.

Cork from any era is very foot, dish and knee friendly. 

There are lots of color and application options, including glue down and click lock options. While it may not wear quite as well as hardwood or tile with large pets or kids, it’s a pretty durable choice. I’ve personally installed it in my basement … even in the bathroom!

Bamboo – not my favorite for MCM

Better than LVP, but not really of the MCM era. 

Could work as modern cousin with some existing flooring…especially if you’re going for a Scandi vibe. 

Foot friendly and durable. 

Terrazzo is perfect for durable classy fun

If hardwood oak floor are the staple of a midwestern ranch, in places where houses are built on slabs the flooring of choice is terrazzo. Basically terazzo is little chips of marble, granite, quartz, shells or other hard materials embeded in a cement or epoxy matrix and then polished up shiny. It is a true forever floor with great style. But it is not as foot or butterfinger friendly.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have terrazzo in your house. And you don’t want to pour concrete over your existing floors you might still try a terrazzo tile. There are a couple of great suppliers to test out!

You can apply it on a slab or in a variety of tile sizes.  

Pick your favorite MCM style tile

This is kind of a separate blog post all of it’s own. But if you want my list of favorite mid-century friendly tile suppliers, grab my mid-century resources download for recommendations!

Concrete is ok if you like things simple

Remember that bare concrete is is one of the MCM OG’s right alongside wood, cork and terrazzo.  There are a lot of reasons to love it. It’s simple and classy. It was frank lloyd wright’s fave floor material. And concrete makes for a virtually indestructible floor. You can dye or stain concrete for some great color options. 

On the flip side, it is less foot (and clutz friendly) than some options. 

Vintage Laminate Flooring is BACK baby

Linoleum (aka Marmoleum) is another super foot friendly material that has some of the conveniences of vinyl with way fewer problems. It’s made from natural raw materials, including linseed oil, wood flour and jute. 

It’s available in both glue down and click lock options (both plank and squares). Marmoleum and other linoleum type floors are relatively easy to care for and it comes is a wide range of color options.  

Carpet totally counts, too!

Wall to wall carpet was definitely an MCM era favorite (it might be protecting those hardwoods!) but it’s not my personal preference today. All that vacuuming!! Bottom line: it is hard to keep clean and less popular overall in current design. But if you love it … make yourself happy.

If you need a carpet compromise – a cozy squish under foot without locking yourself into a color and pattern and shampooing schedule for ever – try area rugs! They work over any of the options listed above!

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:  

  • Which homeowners are most likely to strike MCM flooring gold in the form of original hardwood. 
  • Why luxury vinyl plank flooring is anything but luxurious and never The Best Flooring choice.
  • Which materials might just be The Best Flooring choice for your home and how decided what to install.  

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Read the Full Episode Transcript

If you’ve been wondering what are the best mid-century flooring choices for your mid mod remodel, you’re in luck. I’m going to start by telling you that the possibilities are many. There are a lot of best mid-century flooring choices you might consider, and a lot of different reasons why one is more the best choice for you and your home than others. And we’ll talk about most of them today.

But before we get into that, and so you don’t miss this point, here’s the TLDR of flooring and mid-century homes. You don’t need luxury vinyl plank LVP or LVT, aka luxury vinyl tile. It’s not particularly luxurious, and it’s not tile. Although I guess I can’t argue that it’s not plank. It’s certainly vinyl, which means it’s not great for you your home or the environment. Nor is it nearly as durable as it is marketed to be. More on that in a minute. But without further ado, let’s get into the history and future of flooring and mid-century homes and what are the best mid-century flooring choices for your home.

Hey there welcome back to mid mod remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host Della Hansmann architect and mid-century rent enthusiast, you’re listening to Episode 1702. Quick heads up that today and really this whole week are the perfect opportunity to join us inside the ready to remodel program. If you’ve been thinking about it, come on in the water’s fine, particularly because a week from Saturday, April 27. To be specific, I’ll be hosting one of my layout Buster challenge workshops only for members of the ready to remodel program.

Now we do these workshops intermittently a couple of times a year with a mid mod Remo Squad often and I have one scheduled for this group, but you can join us even if you haven’t been part of this mid mod or Mod Squad if you joined ready to remodel before Saturday. At these layout Buster challenge workshops you get the benefit of the design thinking I do for my one to one master plan clients and something that they don’t they don’t get to watch me workshop their problem in real time.

Ready to remodel students bring their floor plans of the area that’s been bugging them the most along with any other ancillary evidence they’ve got photo sketches example projects they wish their house is more like and we work the problem together. I put the floorplan on my tablet switch on the screenshare and we talk about the pros and cons of various layouts opportunities down to the last crucial inch and from the perspective of big flow throughout the house.

At past layout challenges we have solved snug kitchens opened up better sight lines from favorite rooms to best views placed skylights carved out mudroom space from kitchens and garages worked through several iterations of the perfect finished basement layout and more. It’s surprisingly helpful to watch other people’s challenges, workshopped, and intensely satisfying to see your own challenges blown out of the water. Now, I’m not going to say satisfaction guaranteed.

But we haven’t had a bad result in four years of doing these. I know there will be more layout Buster challenge workshops in the future. But I myself have no idea when the next one is going to hit the calendar. So if you’ve been struggling with how to sell some small space or reimagine the whole floor plan layout of some part of your house. Well, maybe now’s the right time to get ready to remodel a try.

Get all the other benefits of the program and let me workshop your floor plan for you a week from Saturday. Find out everything you need to know at midmod-midwest.com/ready. Now of course I always have a free and easy to get started with resource for you.

This week’s best match is definitely my mid-century ranch resource list.

Among many other resources on the list of products suppliers mid-century homeowners doing their houses right and documenting the process for your viewing delectation reading lists of history theory. Even handy how to advise you will find my list of favorite mid-century tile suppliers and tile is definitely one of the flooring types I’m going to talk about today. If you don’t already own that you want to grab it at mid mod-midwest.com/resources.

Now it’s time for a history snippet. Today let’s talk about finding hardwood floors underneath your wall to wall carpet. Now this is the new featured item of the season the mid-century history snippet and like last week, I’m gonna be able to pair this week’s snippet with today’s topic although no promises we’ll keep doing that in the future. But I want to talk about this fun find you might find real original hardwood floors underneath wall to wall carpet and a mid-century home.

Particularly if you happen to be the owner of a mid-century home built before 1954 That has a basement or crawlspace below the main floor and wall to wall carpet. You might be in for a surprise. The odds in that case are pretty great that there is original three quarter inch thick tongue and groove hardwood oak hiding underneath your carpet. And that flooring today is considered absolutely high end but back in the day.

It was absolutely below grade standard. It was the default flooring for all parts of a mid-century house. Anything that was over a basement or crawlspace other than a kitchen or a bath bathroom which probably had sheet linoleum or sheet vinyl or sometimes tile. Wall to wall carpet did exist before this area, but it was all natural fiber and it was considered to be extremely expensive, hard to take care of high end.

But in 1954, the manufacturing industries that had been looking for ways to repurpose the kind of industrial supplies they had been turning out for World War Two and the war machine and repurpose those into the American consumer economy realized that they could make nylon into a major consumer product. That’s when they started to produce and started to heavily advertise wall to wall nylon carpeting.

Today, wall to wall is kind of a cheap choice. Or occasionally it’s someone’s preference. They like carpet underfoot, possibly because they grew up with that. And they don’t care how hard it is to keep it dust free. They just want to feel it between their toes. If this is you know judgment, but it’s not considered a standard high end choice. It’s considered frankly, the sort of builder grade economy have you just put down OSB subfloor and run some cheap, simple carpet over it and you’re done. And it’s a problem for the next homeowner to solve.

But wall to wall carpet was considered the height of modern practicality and luxury when it was paired with your brand new household vacuum cleaner out with a broom and the floor polish and in with your Electrolux. After a few years of this universal popularity in new home builds with wall to wall carpet, builders started to realize that they didn’t need to install hardwood floors underneath the carpet at all. And this also paired with them getting better and better at producing strong engineered oriented strand board OSB which is usually used as a subfloor these days.

There’s no OSB in my 1952 mid-century ranch. The floor itself is three quarters inch of two and a quarter inch strip oak and underneath it are diagonal sub floorboards that rest on top of the joists and people often take me on a tour of their house as we’re doing the field measure visit and show me the diagonal boards above their joists and wonder if that’s an older form of flooring.

No, that’s the sub floor from a time before they had perfected these sort of mass manufactured four foot by eight foot panels, both drywall and OSB and some kinds of plywood just didn’t exist before the World War Two era, or at least not generally speaking. So anyway, if your house was built any later than 1954, your odds of finding hardwood under the carpet go down gradually and then to nothing, but it’s always worth a peek.

So find a corner where a loose, pulled up bit of carpet won’t be apparent and obnoxious and pry up the carpet from the tack strip, see what’s underneath there. Remember, if you do find hardwood down there and it looks kind of beat up even it has taken a real beating of the words with spills and grit. That two and a quarter inch wide tongue and groove is also three quarters of an inch thick. It is eminently refinishable, and gloriously gorgeous when you do so definitely reveal it.

And if you just love the feeling of carpet under foot more than wood, then go ahead and put back some great area rugs. You can have your cake and eat it too. That way flooring material that helps you define smaller spaces within rooms. It can be picked up and deep cleaned with relative ease through the years. And you can change if you change your mind about it without having to do a whole house flooring transition. So this has been your history snippet and go check underneath your carpeting early mid-century homeowners and you like me might find that you got lucky in the lottery of vintage features.

All right before we dive into it, remember, you can always find our show notes with links to the references. I’m making photos and an outline of this conversation on my website at mid mod dash midwest.com/ 1702. This season’s episodes are all going to be based on listener questions. And our question this week comes from Ben, who lives in a 1967 ranch duplex that needs some updates.

It’s got 1100 square feet with great South windows. Fantastic. I love this for you, Ben. But here’s his problem. And I quote, I have choice overload on my floors, which are currently old linoleum and cheap LDP over original tile. I’m hoping there is a good LDP type strategy that keeps a classic look, but I can’t make a call on exactly what this is. Okay, a couple of things here. First, I get questions like this all the time. So I’m really happy to dig into flooring details today. Let’s talk about the best mid-century flooring options out there. And I will hit on a couple of variations because again, best mid-century flooring has some variability.

For example, I was asked a really great question that’s related to this one about the order of operations. When is the right time to redo flooring in relationship to other projects that might change your layout for example, and we’ll talk about that later in the episode. But to if you like Ben feel like you’re really getting choice overload when you try to look for the best mid-century flooring and you’re like there is everything what could I possibly know?

My answer is don’t panic because I’ll give you some clear pros and cons among the flooring types and remind you to filter those options through the lens of a quick and easy masterplan process. Just you can do it in your head and five minutes. I don’t mean you have to spend months crafting a Whole House masterplan, but you can rule out most of them in most situations based on your preferences, your situation, your budget, your timeline, and what you like. And the third point, which perhaps I should have said first, I’m so glad then that you’ve asked it about an alternative to LVP.

LVP remember is luxury vinyl plank, often also called luxury vinyl tile, even when it doesn’t look like tile and excuse me while I do a quick rant about why luxury vinyl plank sucks. You can’t stop me I’m going to no offense to you, Ben for asking about an LVP like strategy though I get you, you’re looking for something that is easy to install, attractive, durable, popular, pleasant, all of the things that LVP is described and sold as being.

But you’re also absolutely right to feel like something is off about that product. Because it is not all it is cracked up to be. As a designer, I have a number of bones to pick with this material. First, I hate it aesthetically. It looks fake and cheap. Always. It is typically produced by printing a picture of a real material onto a surface and then laminating over it. No. And the shape of LBP is nearly always the same, the planks and you can hear my air quotes on plank are five to eight inches wide and about three to four inches long, much different from a classic.

For example, if we were just talking about the oak floor, you would find an original mid-century ranch from the early 50s. That’s always going to have longer and narrower boards. So that wider and shorter board is it’s not really the same as any other mid-century floor material, it’s always going to seem specifically weird to anyone who’s paying attention. And then even to someone who’s not really looking closely, it’s going to feel a little uncanny a little off.

Plus, let’s leave it set aside for a minute and talk about how it’s bad for you. And as bad for the environment. There’s an area in Louisiana where a lot of vinyl is produced known as cancer alley. It is home to many of the chemical manufacturing plants that produce vinyl and 91% of the residents in that area report health problems linked to chemical exposure, people who work around it and people who just live near the places where it is produced. That’s terrifying.

People who work in hospitals, yes, hospitals with vinyl flooring, that’s all of them these days that’s harshly cleaned with the chemicals specifically for vinyl flooring are reporting shockingly high rates of occupational asthma. I think of vinyl as basically the asbestos of our modern era.

Now similarly to the mid-century moderns, we pay attention to the good things about this product and ignore the health risks for the sake of convenience and because of capitalistic advertising. Unlike asbestos, a lot of the worst things that vinyl does to our bodies are in the early off gassing phase, which can last a long time but starts most and then slowly tapers, whereas asbestos will be dangerous to you anytime it’s disturbed.

But honestly, that makes it a real lose tradeoff for you, the owner of a mid-century home because you might have the owner’s original asbestos to deal with as a potential health hazard and you’re being advised by people now to install polyvinyl chloride in your house to slowly release dioxins and validates at you right now the worst of both worlds plastics are especially likely to off gas when they’re exposed to sunlight. So this is something you know are you going to keep the sun off of all your floors forever. When we’re looking for the beds, mid-century flooring materials. This is not it.

Okay, so it looks cheap and it hurts you. But at least it’s durable right? Not so much the surface of LVP is waterproof and durable. But just like wrapping your house in vinyl siding. This is creating a layer that is difficult for water to move through that can prevent water from getting into it. Yes, but water moves through systems in your house. Sometimes there will be a big spill, it will get in through the cracks in the space it will get in around the edge humidity will gather water that leaks through those gaps will soak into the under layers of the engineered material usually cork and get into the sub floor OSB and not be able to elect evaporate back out so humidity can build up underneath it spills can build up underneath it.

And it’s just sealing in potential problems that won’t be obvious until they are big problems. You can rot out your entire sub floor before you even realize that something is going wrong. If you have a slow leak that’s getting underneath a sealed surface like LDP plus the finish that supposedly so durable is just skin deep. It’s a picture. So if you gouge or scratch it, there’s nothing to refinish or repair.

You’ll need replacement boards of the same finish that are ideally worn and faded the same amount and you’ll have to disassemble the whole floor to get one back into the place in the matrix where it will fit. Is there anything I can say about LDP that’s good? Well, I guess it’s pretty easy to install. But so are a lot of other engineered floors like click Lock wood or cork and they have far few their health and aesthetic issues. So

deep breath I don’t want to rant for too long about this because We’re talking about positives, not negative today, but hopefully I’ve persuaded you to say no thanks and walk away from anyone who wants to tell you that LVP is the best mid-century flooring material it is not. It shouldn’t really be the best choice for any part of a mid-century home update. Now let’s talk about what is a good material, different types of flooring materials you might use in a mid-century remodel.

First, and probably most vintage, the appropriate especially in a, in a Midwestern house is wood. And we’ve got hardwood and engineered wood, the baseline builder grade material that is actually also really beautiful and gorgeous and lovely in its original form. Like so many of the mid-century materials is Oak, hardwood floor that two and a quarter inch strip, you can still get it today, although is by no means as available is going to be the most vintage appropriate floor.

For any part of a house that’s in a social bedroom hallway space that isn’t on a slab, you can install hardwood over a slab. But in that case, I would go with a different type of material, again, because of moisture and thermal and temperature control issues. But there’s also the option of an engineered floor.

Now this is practical, easy to install much better than LVP. It’s not my favorite because it has that same proportion issue where the boards are always going to be wider and shorter than original wood. But it’s a much better choice aesthetically, and duration really, it can’t be refinished as often as solid hardwood, but it can be refinished usually once or sometimes twice if you’re careful. So it has some benefits that way.

And again, it’s a real thin material. It’s a real material, however thin. So if you dig it or scratch it or spill something on it that stains, you can deal with that part of it without having to replace the whole material. It has some depth to it literally, there is so it’s not as thick as it actually installs though it’s got a wood layer on top and then underneath, probably some sort of cork to give it a little bit of give and protect it from crashing, and then probably some sort of hardboard material below that or sometimes it goes in a different order. It’s an engineered material.

If you’re going to be putting quirkiness somewhere if your floor though, I would say why not go with a cork floor. I love cork as a foot friendly material. A lot of people with pets and kids are afraid of cork, because they’re afraid it’s going to just be too vulnerable to wear and tear. But there are mid-century installed cork floors that are still going strong. I think if you have pets and dogs with long nails, I wouldn’t recommend it, I wouldn’t guarantee that it will work for you.

Of course, some of that level of hard wear is going to happen. But I put cork in several spaces of my own house. And I have a Dobby mix mutt who has long nails because she doesn’t like to have them trimmed. And she runs around the house and in and out all day and has never managed to damage my floors. So far, so good. So I also think that can be really comfortable, and I enjoy them. They’re more affordable than actual hardwood floors.

And if you’re going to choose between an engineered wood floor and an engineered cork floor, I would always choose the engineered cork, because it’s closer to the original mid-century version of itself than wood is. So if you take an engineered wood floor and compare it side by side to an original mid-century wood floor, it’s going to look quite different. But an engineered click lock cork floor doesn’t look that aesthetically different from the mid-century version, which have been a rollout solid surface cork.

And also because if you have if you happen again, pros and cons if you happen to have any original mid-century hardwood left in your house, sometimes it’s too problematic to try to match a new material to that even if you’re going to a new supplier to get the same kind of two and a quarter inch strip, it might be hard to get the grain density, the stain color just the exact tonal match, right. So you can say I’m gonna make a distinction we’re going to keep the authentic original mid-century hardwood and then do something next to it that coordinates but does not try to match it. All of these engineered options are also very DIY viable, you can self-install them. If you want to self-install hardwood floor, more power to you but that is not a beginner level DIY project.

Certainly before I skip off of the engineered floors, bamboo is an option you’ll see sold the same way it comes in the same kind of planks, same kind of click Lock install. It’s not my favorite for mid-century homes. I don’t think it’s the best mid-century flooring option just partly from a color perspective. Also from its pattern, its grain. Maybe if you’re going for a sort of a Scandi modern version of mid-century it might feel like the right choice but in general I would just steer clear of that I would always choose a wood or a cork over that.

One more word on engineered floors is that I would also choose always a natural finish of warm brown tone, rather than any of the colored options for those I would not recommend. I would not recommend the choice I made for myself within six months of living into my house of a gray cork Floor, I love the color gray and I will probably love the color gray to my grave, but it is a trendy color and therefore it will already read to me and to other people as slightly on the nose and about to go out of fashion. And it’s a choice that I wouldn’t have made if I had stopped and taking the time to do a master plan process. So there’s me telling on myself for your benefit.

When I told my sister to do when she several years later tackled putting cork floor into her basement over an ice sub floor which is by the way, for people finishing a basement. A light elevated sub floor with a click Lock engineered cork floor is one of my favorite DIY liable and yet wonderfully durable, cost effective looks nice finish options for basement floor gives you a little bit of foot friendliness, a little bit of that squish that’s easy on your knees, a little bit of insulation and a whole lot but without losing too much headroom by raising up the floor height.

It’s a great compromise but I told her to go with cork colored cork not gray and she and I both agree it’s the best decision I wish I’d made that choice for myself. Alright, so much for the wood and cork type of things.

What do you do if you’re putting flooring over a slab? Well, depending on what’s underneath, you might think about something pretty hefty. If you are really going onto a concrete floor, you could think about a terrazzo or even just polishing the concrete especially in high use places like laundry rooms kitchens entry halls. I love terrazzo for mid-century houses.

If you live in California or in Florida, where you’re building right on a slab this can be an excellent choice for you if you’re working in a basement, particularly a walkout basement that has a high finish quality, having a new terrazzo floor installed. Choosing the beautiful, embedded rocks you want to put into it finding the matrix color and having it all polished it is stunning. But of course that takes a more sturdy support floor support system than most mid-century upper floor houses have even with their very nice, durable old growth joists.

So what can you do if you want to terrazzo look, but you’re in a kitchen over a basement? Well, you could think about terrazzo style tile. Some of these are more an aesthetic copy. And some of them are, you know terrazzo made large and cut into tile formats. You can set them with interesting contrasting borders, or very close together with little metal borders, which I love as a really snappy, snazzy look that pulls back a metal choice that you want to make elsewhere in the house.

Terrazzo and all the tile choices you might make for a kitchen or a bedroom or other hardwearing space aren’t as a foot friendly as comfortable to stand on. But they’re excellent for high traffic areas. They’re very cleanable. They’re basically indestructible. They do not take or show grease stains, they do not embed anything gets spilled or any kind of child or pet effluent that might happen. So if you know that you want that impermeability, but you don’t like standing on cold terrazzo you could just throw it on compression mats at the sink and the stove or area rugs away from the kitchen wherever you’d like them. This is a beautiful, great best mid-century flooring choice for certain circumstances that is extremely durable.

And again, as we’re thinking about what is your long term choice, you absolutely want to think about how to put tile into your home in some place. If it pleases you, it’s a wonderful place to really express yourself. So we can go from terrazzo to any other tile type. Particularly if you’re working with an odd shaped space, you might not want to do a large format tile because there’ll be some place where this dimension of the tile runs up against an edge and has to be cut that can be concealed with a smaller format tile.

And this is often why mid-century bathrooms have that very small one to 11111 by two two by two patterns sometimes or just an array of one by one squares or even smaller ones. Because it’s very friendly to the sort of odd small shapes and you don’t have to do as much cutting you can just place around the corners. I can’t possibly get into all the various types of tiles that are out there.

But do think about when you’re thinking about tile for a flooring, how slick and slippery it might be particularly in places like bathrooms or kitchens where it might occasionally be wet. You want to make sure that it is recommended as a flooring material and you might even want to get samples and test it. Of course you want to get samples of everything and test it all don’t you because you’re a mid mod remodeler. Okay, I knew you were.

One more thing about hard surfaces. If you have concrete that you’re thinking about how do I cover this concrete with a proper mid-century surface? Well concrete also falls a list of best mid-century flooring types. You can have it polished or painted or you can’t stained it after the fact well you can acid etch it. If you’re doing new concrete flooring. You can have color embedded right into it. It is durable, it is permanent. You can get it with in floor heat again if you’re building new Frank Lloyd Wright love A red painted or stained concrete floor as a finished floor. It was inexpensive and classy. And you could put carpets over it all day long.

Vintage laminate flooring. Well, it’s perfectly authentic to do a roll down laminate, might be vinyl or might have been linoleum back in the mid-century day. These are not most people’s favorite options. But if you’re looking for a particular type of more historically accurate sort of more vintage style less mod mid-century modern, mid-century vintage, perhaps mid-century traditional, you can absolutely consider the vintage laminate option.

Now the product that was originally sold as linoleum these days, you’re gonna find it more often sold as marmoleum. And I personally love to source my marmoleum from green building supply, which is a family run business in Iowa. They’re really fun and nice, and they send you samples and they’re great communicators. But you can do all sorts of fun colors and patterns with this. You can do a rollout. You can do, you can do an engineered click lock version. I wouldn’t do it in planks, though, I would do it in squares. And if you’re going to do that you can play around with a checkerboard pattern.

One note about high contrast checkerboard patterns. First off that reads a little more 40s than it does 50s 60s or 70s. And second, for people who are trying to keep a floor clean. You might want to think about flooring color as part of your personal feelings about what looks clean. If you don’t believe it’s clean and less white and it looks white then go for a light colored floor. But those might show more drips drabs and dirt over time. So you might want a darker tone color. But if you go with a high contrast, for example, a dark to light checkerboard, you might find that you’ve got sort of tracked in footprints on the dark and little dribs and drabs of things on the light and it’s just impossible for it ever to feel clean.

Of course, everybody’s tendency to clean as their own. But just bear in mind when you’re considering the pros and cons of various flooring. The best mid-century flooring isn’t gonna work for you unless it is also going to meet your standards of how it looks when it’s as clean as you feel like making it. But marmoleum is a favorite of mine. One fun thing to do too is to have a low contrast option where most of the floor is a field color and a few odd shaped places not in any kind of pattern at all, or a contrasting color just to highlight the eight by eight or the 12 by 12 Square nature of the material, show it off.

And then there’s carpet. Now I am not a huge fan of wall to wall carpet, I grew up in a house that had wall to wall carpet. And I felt like no matter how much it was my job as a teenager to vacuum it, we never really got all that schmutz out of it. When I removed the wall to wall carpet from this house, I found the literal dust of ages underneath it. To me, it just feels like it’s never really going to be clean, but it’s comfortable, it’s warm. Some people really like to have it underfoot.

And if that’s you, go for it. If you are really in love with carpet, I would highly recommend that instead you think about area rugs, they’re easier to pick up move around size specifically for the room use as a grouping to tie an area of furniture pieces together, make a smaller space feel actually larger if you size them perfectly, and they’re just much easier to clean. Plus, you can change your mind about them much more easily over time.

So one more thing that comes up regularly when people ask me about flooring options is the order of operations for changing the flooring. Do you need to lock in your layout before you can make any changes effectively to your flooring material? Now this comes up a lot because many of my ready to remodel students, many of the people listening to this podcast maybe you and many even of my masterplan clients are planning to do their work in phases.

And some of the changes need to be made right now. Something is just too worn out to live with this flooring is making you unhappy. But you also know you’re going to be adding on a space. What does it mean to put new flooring in a kitchen when you’re going to be adding a mudroom later and you want the flooring to go through consistently? Or in a kitchen where you’re going to change the layout of cabinets and counters around it later? What does it mean to remove walls or add them after you have made a flooring change.

So in an ideal world, we would do everything in the right order and that would be to change the layout of the space and then put in new flooring. We don’t generally build walls on top of floors, although quick caveat on that. And you know, the flooring is almost one of the last things that happens in well-ordered remodel, everything else can be done heavy things can be moved around and we don’t risk any damage to the flooring we come around and do that last. However, sometimes that’s just not the way your life works.

And all though typically flooring doesn’t run out into the walls in certain mid-century homes again, with that original hard plank hardwood. They were built in such a way that the wood floors run ran completely across an open floor plan and the walls were built on top of it. I’m always delighted we find this and a remodel where we need to sort of rearrange to bedroom allocation of space because that means we can pick up and move closet walls basically.

And we don’t need to worry about patching and around all the spaces. If the hardwood runs consistently right underneath all those fuzzy little walls, we can take them out, we can refinish the floor, and we can rearrange the space between the bedrooms. That’s rare, and it’s probably not what’s going on in the case we’re thinking about.

Ideally though, if you want to change the layout, you don’t necessarily need to build the new walls you’re going to you can think about certain types of material for flooring that can have walls put over them. But you do want to remove any walls that are going to come out before you put in new finish high end flooring you’re going to love. Even if you don’t do the rest of the stuff, even if you leave the rest of it a little bit unfinished, get the flooring to run consistently everywhere it will eventually be.

You can also think about more like temporary solutions, you can easily connect from an existing space into addition, if you have planned ahead and you’ve gotten all of the material you’re going to need. This is where you want big overages. Where normally I always recommend for a 10% overage in a flooring material. If you’re planning to transition from one space into another and do the other part later, get 20% overage of the entire square footage just to be safe. You might also think about what are temporary short term choices. If you can just eke out living along with the flooring, you’ve got a little bit longer.

And if you think about the timelines of the time, you need to live with a temporary space, you might do something like paint over whatever the existing flooring material is because you’re planning to change it in five years. And it can probably take that wear and tear and feel fresher and cleaner and more you now in the immediate meantime, and then you can go back and do more to it later.

One slightly kooky example from my own family of enthusiastic di wires is that my little sister and her husband with her several layers of DIY improving their back of house addition that had been put on in the 1970s, they took up the previous floor and got an engineered floor that they wanted to put down over it. So they cut all the pieces to length put into the space and lived with it for a while, even though they knew they weren’t done with the work.

And they actually wanted to take the flooring up and do a little bit of plumbing underneath to install laundry in that area later. But they got it all installed and lived with it for that year. So that they didn’t have to live with an unfinished floor during that whole time. And then because it was an engineered floor, they simply unclick all the cook locks and stack them in an organized manner.

So they were set up, they were still all cut to length, and then did the plumbing they needed to do and put the floor back down. Then they trimmed around all of it. So it was actually locked into place when they were done. This is the kind of thing you can do with a floating floor. It’s not designed to ever really be secured down. Not glued into place. And not nailed into place. So technically speaking, it was possible.

Yeah, basically, if you need to think about order of operations, think about your life, how DIY the project is going to be how much you can stand the materials you have now and try to take the long view the more you can see down to what your ultimate plan is, the more you can master plan, the better off you will be.

Okay, so let’s recap the wrap off. luxury vinyl plank sucks. Please don’t use it. It’s bad for you bad for the out environment bad for the value of your house. And it’s not as durable it is as it is marketed to be anyway. There are many great options that you can think about. For best mid-century flooring, none of them are really the best. They all have their pros and cons but wood, original hardwood, if you’ve got it, preserve it, love it take care of it.

If you choose, it’s probably the most authentic thing you could put into a new area or to replace is to have someone reinstall the type of Original hardwood there would have been in a mid-century house which is two and a quarter inch wide oak plank. You can also think about wood engineered floors. I think it’s a not ideal option, but it works. And then there’s cork, which is by far my preference of the engineered floor options. Bamboo I don’t really recommend for a mid-century house.

If you want to harder more durable surface terrazzo or polished concrete are basically impermeable, but you can also go with tile and even a terrazzo format tile that will really have the look without the complexity and the weight bearing nature of tile.

And then of course, I’m a big fan of vintage laminate marmoleum floors can be really fun, practical and cost effective. And they just have a timeless quality, particularly if you choose the right color and they can be a place to express some fun with color.

Carpet. Not my favorite but you do you if you really really love wall to wall carpet, you can go ahead and do it and leave your flooring replacement for the next person when you move out of the house and they want something fresh. 

I’m going to leave you with a pep talk that relates to this question. I have spent a lot of time using the phrase best mid-century flooring partly because I think it’s going to help people find this episode through SEO but also because it is what people ask about. It’s what you are probably looking for. What is the best mid-century flooring for your house?

And my answer to you to my clients to my students and ready to remodel to everybody who asks me this is, it depends. When I use the phrase, it depends. Which comes up? What’s the best kitchen flooring? The best bathroom layout? Or the best roofline? What’s the best type of kitchen stove? Well, it depends.

And when I answer this way, I’m not hedging or hesitating. I do have opinions and experience on all of these matters. Oh, and strong personal preferences of my own. You won’t find any designer who doesn’t have an instinctive knee jerk preference response to any of these questions. But well, people generally say, What’s the best mid-century flooring? What they actually mean to ask is, what’s the best mid-century flooring for me and for my house, and that’s where it really does depend. I need more information before I can answer.

The best mid-century flooring depends on your taste the size of your pets, the age of your kids, if any, your knee health, even your tendency to be a little bit of a butterfingers. How often are you going to drop plates on the kitchen floor? It’s a real question. The short version of my answer is that there are some great options that provide for a really indestructible floor, one that’s easy to maintain and will last forever.

And if that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend tile particularly terrazzo tile that’s smooth underfoot, easy to clean, clean and hides a little bit of dirt. No dropped item will dent that floor and no pet nail will ever bring it up. No amount of spill water will be a problem. Then there are also options that provide for a little more bounce. In that case, I love to recommend a marmoleum or even a cork floor. Yes, cork is actually great in some kitchens. That kind of floor will give you forgiveness. If you drop a mug, it’s more comfortable to stand on all afternoon and bare feet. These are both good options, but they aren’t the right answer for everyone universally, because it depends.

So your pep talk for today, the thing I want you to take with you is that there is not a best mid-century flooring universally, but there is a best choice for you. And that’s gonna depend on what’s already going on in your house, what your family style, size type preferences are and what you’d like the look of, then you’re going to workshop from that it will narrow it down, but you’ll still have a couple of options to choose from, you will look at pricing, you will look at sourcing you will look at environmental friendliness.

You’ll weigh how it works with the other choices you’re making in the house. And eventually you’ll come down to one of several options that’s going to be worked best and go with the one that’s most practical, cost effective and makes you smile the most. That is taking yourself through the Master Plan method in many format and it works every time to answer these kinds of option heavy everything on the internet exists questions and is so much more effective than just Googling for best mid-century flooring or best fill in the blank about your house.

So I hope I’ve gotten you a little bit closer to finding the best mid-century flooring options for yourself. If you want to hit any of the references for this episode, if you’re looking for the place to join ready to remodel quickly before the layout challenge master workshop if you want that free resources list, or you want to see some pictures of flooring, go check out the show notes page midmod-midwest.com/1702.

Meanwhile, next week on the podcast, I’m going to be bringing in a special guest to help me answer the question of what is the best? Yes, the best landscaping you can do for a mid-century house, and I have my own opinions about this. But as a person who has only recently graduated to keeping five houseplants alive, I’m not the best person to tell you the answer.

So I’m bringing in a friend who will really have some expertise to bring to bear on the topic of mid-century landscaping. See you for that next week. And in the meantime, have some fun narrowing down the options from everything to what’s going to work well with your existing house, your lifestyle and your preferences. Okay, catch you next week.